An Aussie wants to change Kashmirs bad image
27 August 2003
News Network International
SRINAGAR: A young Australian is determined to change the image of Jammu and Kashmir as a dangerous land and restore to the Himalayan state its 'rightful place' as one of the best international tourist destinations. And what better way to do that than holding an international rock concert and a cricket match, asks Andrew Grenenger, 28, a Florida-based marine engineer originally from Sydney. Grenenger, along with friends from different countries, is organising a Kashmir Peace Festival next year in Srinagar, the state's summer capital, which will include concerts by rock groups and a cricket match between a World Eleven and a Jammu and Kashmir Eleven. The run-up to the festival which, according to Grenenger, has already received endorsement from the State Government, will see scores of people from all over the world zipping through the valley on Royal Enfield Bullet motorcycles as part of a programme to create awareness about the state. 'All of us love Royal Enfields,' said Grenenger of the classic British motorcycle that is now produced only in India. He said some 50 people had signed up for the ride and more were expected to join. Grenenger said he fell in love with the enchanting Kashmir valley after a visit and was surprised by the consistently 'bad reports' about the region he had seen all over the world. He said the reports were totally contrary to what he saw when he visited the state two years ago and again this year. Grenenger was in Jammu and Kashmir for three weeks in July-August to discuss the proposed festival with the state authorities. 'Even then (two years ago), things were not as bad as made out by media reports all over the world. Then I decided to do something about it,' Grenenger told IANS here en route home. 'There are of course skirmishes here and there, but nothing involving foreigners.' He said the festival he was plang with the placid Dal Lake in the backdrop was aimed at telling the international tourist that Kashmir was 'quite safe' for holidaying. Grenenger said he discussed the festival with the Jammu and Kashmir government and had received its endorsement. It will be held from July 31 to August 2 next year. He said the tourism department had been very supportive of his proposal and had offered to put up a stage for the festival and arrange accommodation for the artistes who would be coming from abroad. Some big names in international rock, such as Erratic and Inkbalm from Australia, are expected to perform at the festival, Grenenger said. He said though he was not on the lookout for sponsors for the festival he was confident that many Indian and foreign firms would be interested to support the move as the Dal Lake and Kashmir valley would assure them global publicity and goodwill.